On Friday 4th October, I made the three and a half hour trip to Dresden. Prior to my trip, all I knew about Dresden was that it had been bombed, that maybe it had a cathedral and I was pretty sure it had a connection with Coventry. The other thing I knew was that Manda, a fellow language assistant who I met during training in Cologne, was spending her year there. Making plans to go visit Manda happened very quickly, and at one point I was a little worried my train tickets wouldn’t turn up before I was due to leave. Thankfully, the stereotype of German efficiency held true, and the tickets arrived in plenty of time.
If I may take a quick thematic detour, I should point out that I rarely do stuff like this without having planned it out weeks, if not months, in advance. The internet keeps telling me that on a year abroad you should say yes to everything, with the obvious exception of climbing into the back of a stranger’s van when they offer you sweets. But I have to be honest, most things that the internet says I should have said yes to, I couldn’t afford. I’m looking at you, Oktoberfest. So I feel that an almost not quite spontaneous trip to Dresden is proof that I am trying to follow the internet’s advice – a dangerous thing at times – and that I won’t spend my entire year abroad sat in my room, watching DVDs.
So, back to Dresden. Manda was lovely enough to meet me at the station, and we caught a tram back to her flat. They have trams in Dresden – I’m so jealous. Dresden is split into the Altstadt (old town) and the Neustadt (new town), which are handily separated by the river Elbe. Manda lives in the Neustadt, so that was the area I got to see first. The amount of graffiti in the Neustadt is ridiculous. There was a lot of generic graffiti, pretty much the same as you’d see in an English town though with more anti-Nazi sentiment and much more of it. But there was also what I want to call proper street art. Mosaics covering the outside of a Mexican restaurant, butterflies flooding through a crack in a house, and plenty of stylised drawings of people.
The very colourful Mexican restaurant.
Butterflies making a bid for freedom.
The Neustadt feels quite studenty, probably because of the high numbers of pubs and takeaway places. It also feels young. Even though there’s a few one off shops selling wares at prices that a student budget can’t quite stretch to, most of them are aimed at, if not students, then young adults. We decided that the best way to show our maturity as twenty year olds was to buy ice cream. Mango chili was what I picked, because it sounded like it was going to be fantastic or grim. Sadly it was the latter. I did have a photo of it, but it has mysteriously disappeared from my camera, so you’ll have to do without.
Moving on from the Neustadt, we crossed one of the bridges over the Elbe and headed into the Altstadt, which is definitely the tourist attraction. Compromised of gothic architecture, towering spires and embellished domes, it’s beautiful, especially in the late afternoon light. I got a bit trigger happy with my camera and made us look like massive tourists, but it was worth it. See for yourself.
View of the Altstadt from a bridge
So much detail.
So after my tourist phase and a pit stop at a café to grab food, we went back to Manda’s flat, where, being the old woman that I am I asked if we could stay in, because I was shattered. Thankfully, Manda’s awesome and was fine with that, and she even let me hijack her laptop to use the wifi. How I’ve missed wifi.
Our plan for Saturday was to go to Leipzig. Both of us wanted to go, but neither of us had any idea what was there. When we finally arrived – the ICE trains are highspeed and fantastic, whilst the local trains are… a little slower – we had a look at the map, worked out we were pretty near the centre of town and spotted that there was a museum of the town’s history. Equipped with ice cream from the station, we headed in. (Mine was called ‘himmelblau’ aka blue skies. Apparently the sky tastes like bubblegum.)
I have so many pictures of ice cream from this weekend.
Wandering through Leipzig was very pleasant, especially when we encountered a market. It felt like a Christmas market, and probably had about as many stalls as the Birmingham German Christmas Market. After the market we finally found the museum. Immediately we messed up by trying to go in without paying. In our defence, it didn’t say anywhere that you had to pay. Six euros and one disgruntled cashier later, we were free to look round. The exhibition on was about German Heroes, possibly ones coming from Leipzig. I’m not entirely sure. I have no idea what order the boards were meant to be presented in, but the way they were meant it was super confusing. Chronologically speaking, it jumped all over the place, going from the 1970s, to the Napoleonic era, to Hitler. Ah, well, I’m sure it makes sense to the curator.
The coolest looking cafe.
After deciding that ice-cream was the best course of action after being confused, we both had Spaghetti Eis. I’m sure any of you who’ve met me in person are aware of my love for Spaghetti Eis, and Leipzig did not disappoint. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Spaghetti Eis is ice cream made to look like spaghetti. That’s it. That’s all it is. But is also one of the best things in the world. If I could have one wish, it would be that you could buy Spaghetti Eis in England. That or world peace, of course.
Ah, Spaghetti Eis. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Slightly disappointed in Leipzig, we headed back to the railway station and got on the next train to Dresden, which happened to be an ICE. We were halfway back to Dresden when the conductor told us our tickets weren’t valid on ICEs. She took pity on us, and only charged us for one ticket between the two of us, which was still €35. The moral of this story is always read your ticket, even when it has a paragraph of German on it. Especially when it has a paragraph of German on it.
That evening we headed out into the Neustadt in search of alcohol and music, which worked out pretty well. At the first bar we went to, we ordered a toblerone cocktail and one called Dragon Blood, because it had to be done. The Toblerone tasted like chocolate milkshake and if the other one is to believed, dragon’s blood tastes like a lot of alcohol. At the second bar, Manda looked very grown up, ordering a something-tini that came in, shockingly, a martini glass, which, as everyone knows, is the epitome of elegance and sophistication. Me? Yeah, I ordered a Fairy Princess, which did not come with a tiara and a wand, which was saddening. But it tasted like something an alcoholic six year old would serve to her stuffed toys at a tea party, so it was aptly named.
A very dark picture of me and the Fairy Princess.
Eventually, we headed to a club. It was fairly small (Notts people, I’m talking Cookie Club size dancefloor), but with two floors. The upstairs had roughly seven people there, but downstairs was much busier, so that was where we went. The music was a weird mix of English pop from three to five years ago, dubstep and rap, but it was enjoyable and danceable to. In fact, the “old” music meant I actually knew a lot of the songs, which never happens to me in clubs. Drinks wise they were charging €5 ish for a vodka and coke, but considering half the glass was filled with vodka, that kinda made sense. Despite people telling me to go to bars and clubs to meet people, I really wouldn’t recommend it. Most, if not all, people there were German and consequently spoke German. Trying to understand drunk people speaking German in a loud nightclub is really hard. Both us managed to not understand what a guy said to us, though of course, we smiled and nodded blankly in the way that we’ve been practicing since we’ve been in Germany and only understanding half of what anyone is saying. I’m going to go ahead and assume that he was being complimentary.
After having headed home at stupid o’ clock, we spent Sunday chilling in Manda’s flat, eating pizza, discussing opinions of actors and watching Game of Thrones. (Yes, I am now watching Game of Thrones. I’ll let you know how that goes.) When we headed to the railway station so I could make my weary way back to Ilmenau, we ended up in the main shopping area. Stopping for one last ice cream, we had a wander through, shocked that the shops were open. As I’ve previously mentioned, Germany stops on Sundays. Nowt happens, nowt is open. But in Dresden it was all go. We’ve decided that it was probably because of the long weekend due to the Tag der deutschen Einheit.
My ice-cream was Smurf flavour…
I really enjoyed my weekend in Dresden, even if Leipzig was a disappointment. Thankfully, good company improves everything. Dresden itself is beautiful and I liked it a lot. After a month here in the countryside, with gorgeous sunsets and woods everywhere, I was wondering how I’d cope back in England, living in proper towns and cities. Turns out I’ll be just fine. It was awesome hanging out with someone my own age, who has such excellent taste in tv programmes and actors, which may have made me talk a hell of a lot, so Manda, if at times you were willing me to shut up, I do apologise.
So yeah, I’d recommend Dresden, if anyone’s debating where to visit in Germany. It’s got history and beauty, as well as all the pubs and clubs you could wish for. And a dandelion water feature. What’s not to love?
Manda dared me to run through it. Considering the weather, I politely declined.